The Angler's Curse
The Goulburn River is well
known for good mayfly hatches on evening and rightly
so. Huge hatches of a variety of mayfly species occur
on dark and fly fishers in the know are suitably geared
for this emergence. Also common is a daytime hatch during
late springtime and autumn that
is also fished by a great many anglers. There is however
another appearance of mayflies that goes unnoticed by
the majority flyfishers and that is, hatch of the early
Caenids are a family of
mayflies that are common the world over. They are peculiarly
shaped when compared to many of their cousins with a
short, stumpy body and an oversized wing. They are also
tiny with hook sizes in the #22-26 needed to accurately
imitate these bugs. Hatching out in huge numbers at
first light they can bring the trout to the surface
for that first few hours of the day. Because they emerge
in huge numbers and because they are so tiny, they are
universally known as 'the angler's curse'.
The Goulburn has two distinct
aspects of this hatch. This can easily be broken down
as a/ High Water (above 4000 megs) and b/ Low Water
(4000 Megs or below). The river takes on very different
characteristics at these two levels and this will dictate
where you go looking for them.
At higher flow rates the
fishing is limited to backwaters and reverse eddies
where sufficient numbers
will accumulate to get the fish to rise. While you won't
find many fish the chances for success are good as those
that have occupied the prime backwater lies will be
feeding well and easily stalked as they are not likely
to move much.
The second category is
perhaps the most enjoyable and this refers to the lower
flow rates. When the river is running at 4,000 megs
or less there are distinct pools, glides and concentrated
bubble lines. Fish will be found feeding heavily in
the tail outs of most pools and the bubble lines will
contain literally thousands of these bugs. This is typical
of mid autumn and late spring.
Caenid duns will be found
drifting on the water while the spinners congregate
on the bank's edge. Fortunately a single pattern will
usually suffice. Getting the size right is the most
important part of matching this hatch. The caenid featured
in our fly archives is the first choice. It should be
tied on a variety of hook sizes with about a #22 the
most commonly used .If you do not have one of these
try a Goulburn Griffith's in the smallest size and trim
the palmered hackle right around the fly, leaving on
a couple of millimetres of the hackle. This ugly modification
pretty much leaves just the peacock herl body to provide
the bulk of the fly and the trimmed hackle floats it.
It works very well at times.
The most important thing
is to find your fish before you begin fishing. Blind
fishing with such a small fly is not really productive
and you need to be aware of where fish feeding on these
tiny insects are most likely to be. Three places most
1. Current reverses/backwaters
2. Tails of pools
3. Bubble lines in the
middle of the pool
Slow water is the key and
you should not expect to find fish working this hatch
in shallow gravel runs as they just cannot find such
tiny bugs in the chop.
1. Current reverses
must be approached from the bottom end of the reverse.
This means walking downstream on the main river so as
to not spook a fish sitting in the reverse and facing
'downstream' in relation to the main river flow. You
should try and get to a spot where getting a drag free
drift is easy and the cast is unlikely to spook the
trout. Once in a good position multiple drifts can be
made until the fish takes the fly. Current reverses
are especially important at water levels greater than
2. Tails of pools
are also a hotspot when the lower river levels make
them distinguishable. Fish will sit just upstream of
the drop off lip making a drag free drift almost impossible.
The good thing is that you can easily approach through
the shallow gravel bar below but you are limited in
how close you can get as these are often the most wary
of all fish. Use inventive casts to get a drag free
drift, even if it is only for a few seconds. Reach mends,
wiggle casts, slack line casts etc can all be used in
these situations. If you have some sort of cover and
can fish from almost parallel with the fish do so. These
spots offer a good chance to catch a fish but presentation
is the problem.
3. Bubble lines
represent the best chance of catching fish during this
hatch. A huge number of caenids are usually drifting
by and the fish feast on the over supply of food. Approaching
is usually easy, a drag free drift is not a problem
and the fish are less wary as they usually have the
refuge of depth or structure nearby.
Leaders should be long
and fine. Nine foot is the bare minimum with 12 foot
the norm. A good four feet of 2lb tippet should be used
to aid presentation and you can use your light weight
rods at these times as the wind is not a problem.
This early morning hatch
is something worth chasing as there is a chance that
you could pick up a couple of decent fish before the
day even gets started. It also allows you to take in
the beauty of the most magical time of day, first light.
The air is crisp and the light dim and the fish are
rising to small dry flies. Just being out there to see
it is pretty special.